FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The morning after a federal judge temporarily halted the new Texas abortion law, Whole Woman’s Health announced it has resumed providing abortion care for clients in Fort Worth and at three other clinics in Texas.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health said, “Today, we have a huge victory.”READ MORE: Former Texas Nurse Sentenced To Death For Killing Hospital Heart Patients
On Wednesday evening, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin granted a temporary restraining order against the State of Texas, originally requested by the U.S. Justice Department.
He wrote, “From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution.”
Under the law, doctors can’t perform abortions once cardiac activity is detected, which can be as early as six weeks when many women don’t know they’re pregnant.
After the ruling was released, Hagstrom Miller said Whole Woman’s Health said it called clients to come in. “We are proud to have been a part of this case. We are proud to do our part to lead the resuming of care in Texas. We have reopened. Our schedule to expand beyond the six week limit.”
Jonathan Covey of Texas Values criticized the Judge’s ruling. “It’s not surprising, it’s not unexpected, that an Obama appointed judge would come up with bogus reasons for putting an injunction on the heartbeat bill at this point.”
The Texas law can’t be enforced by government entities.
Instead, private citizens can enforce it by filing civil lawsuits against abortion providers and others.
SMU Constitutional Law Professor Dale Carpenter said Thursday that Judge Pitman’s order is sweeping. “The state courts both have to stop any existing proceedings and cannot even allow any further proceedings to be docketed. That’s a very strong kind of an order.”
The State of Texas said Wednesday night it is appealing to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which could issue a stay on the federal judge’s ruling, meaning the state law would be back in effect.READ MORE: Gardening 101: Consider Adding Ornamental Tree For Texas Arbor Day
Professor Carpenter said despite the temporary restraining order, the Texas law has not been struck down.
If the Court of Appeals does issue a stay, Carpenter said providers that resume abortion care could face lawsuits retroactively.
Hagstrom Miller said providers are being cautious. “Many providers are afraid of, many of our physicians are afraid of that would if the injunction is knocked down in the future would allow for the vigilantes to come back and sue us for every abortion we did in the interim.”
Covey said, “People who violate it by taking advantage of the preliminary injunction to file lawsuits, they can still be gone after in federal court, and they can still be gone after if this preliminary injunction is stayed or vacated by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Professor Carpenter said if the Court of Appeals does issue a stay on Judge Pitman’s ruling, the Justice Department could file an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to ask Justices to intervene.
In a 5-4 decision last month, the nation’s highest court decided against intervening in the Texas law, allowing it to take effect September 1. “It would be up to a justice to refer this matter on an emergency basis to the full court, just like they did before, and then see whether things have changed in the last month such that the Supreme Court is willing to intervene.”
Covey said, “We believe that even if it makes it to the Supreme Court, that life will be upheld.”
Hagstrom Miller said the past five weeks have been challenging. “As you’ve heard, it’s been cruel, mean, and scary. The staff are being surveilled constantly. We’ve had protestors on sidewalks, to fake patients the opposition has been sending into our clinics.”
Planned Parenthood said Thursday it’s still assessing the situation and that it could be days or weeks to take new patients.
Watch full interview with SMU Constitutional Law Professor Dale Carpenter:MORE NEWS: National Juneteenth Museum Coming To Fort Worth